Monthly Archives: November 2013

Triple Almond and Olive Oil Cake

Well, I was hoping to post 8 Hanukkah recipes to celebrate the 8 days of Hanukkah and the unusual collision of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving to create Thanksgivukkah, however I’m away from home and my kitchen so sharing some of my favorite Hanukkah and Thanksgiving classics and trying out new recipes is a bit of a challenge. I’ll try to catch up once I get back home from our Thanksgiving getaway.

I received The Holiday Kosher Baker as a gift from my mother-in-law. I was super excited about it because I’m always looking for new ideas for our holiday meals and I immediately flipped to the Hanukkah section and found the recipe for this cake and decided to try it out. Baking outside my own kitchen was a bit difficult and I ended up with a few modifications, but nonetheless this cake was quick to put together and very moist and flavorful with hints of marzipan.

Triple Almond Olive Oil Cake

After preheating the oven and preparing the baking pan with nonsticking cooking spray and parchment to cover the bottom followed by another round of nonstick cooking spray, I sprinkled 2/3 cup (the whole bag) of sliced almonds (ALMOND #1) to cover the bottom of the pan (which later became the top of the cake). I then ground up whole shelled almonds (ALMOND #2) into a fine meal. I beat together granulated sugar, extra virgin olive oil, and eggs in a mixing bowl until they were creamy, then added in all-purpose flour, the almond meal, salt, baking powder, and almond extract (ALMOND #3). I added about 1/2 teaspoon of citrus zest (I used clementine, but would recommend orange) then stirred everything together. I poured the batter into a 8-inch square pyrex dish (the original recipe called for an 8-inch round pan, but I just went with what I had) and baked at 350F until a knife stuck into the center came out clean. The original recipe recommended 35 minutes, but I had to bake mine for 45 minutes. I let it cool overnight (I’m sure 10-15 minutes would be enough), then ran a knife around the edges of the pan, inverted the cake onto a platter, and peeled off the parchment. It’s a lighter departure from doughnuts and latkes and other Thanksgivukkah treats but the oil still harks back to the symbolism of the festival.

Triple Almond Olive Oil Cake

Triple Almond and Olive Oil Cake (adapted from The Holiday Kosher Baker)

nonstick cooking spray

2/3 cup sliced almonds

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

The Recipe

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray, then cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Place it in the pan, then spray again with cooking spray.

2. Sprinkle the sliced almonds to cover the bottom of the baking pan.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, and olive oil until creamy. Add in the flour, ground almonds, salt, baking powder, almond extract, and zest and stir together.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan over the sliced nuts. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until a knife stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean.

5. Let cake cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Then run a knife around the edges and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the parchment paper and serve almond side up.


Pasta with Eggplant and Tomatoes

Eggplant parmesan is definitely an old standby, but it can be really heavy and greasy with globs of cheese and fried eggplant slices leaving you feeling pretty weighed down afterwards. This meal was another discovery from How to Cook Everything, and I chose to make it because I really haven’t cooked with eggplant in years so I figured I’d give it a shot. It turned out to be a deconstructed eggplant parm, minus the cheese, and was quite tasty.

I started off by making fresh breadcrumbs. I used a few day old loaf of Italian bread and in my mini food processor, coarsely ground chunks of bread to equal about a cup of bread crumbs. I put a large pot of salted water to boil on one burner and on the other, I heated 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Once it was hot, I added the breadcrumbs, along with a little salt, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic powder, and cooked them until they were crispy and brown. I removed them from the skillet into a bowl and added another 1/4 cup of olive oil to the same skillet.

By this time the water was boiling so I added a pound of linguine and cooked it for 10 minutes, then drained it. In the meantime, I cooked about a pound of eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes, in the skillet until it was soft and browned, about 10 minutes. I added salt and black pepper to taste. I then added 3 plum tomatoes, which I had seeded and cored, and cut into small pieces and thin slivers from a large clove of garlic. When the tomatoes were softened, about another 5-8 minutes, I added 1/4 cup worth of thinly sliced fresh basil. I combined the linguine, the eggplant mixture, and the breadcrumbs, added a bit more salt and freshly ground pepper, and served dinner, garnished with more basil, and with garlic bread on the side.

It was huge success. It tasted as good as eggplant parmesan, without the grease, and the combination of flavors is one of my favorites. Continually checking the seasoning and adding salt and pepper throughout the cooking process was a worthwhile effort to get the flavor right. I do think some fresh mozzarella would have been a tasty match for this dish. This is a good meal for entertaining since most people seem to like eggplant parmesan, and definitely a meal I will add to our rotation.

Pasta with Eggplant and Tomatoes


Pasta with Eggplant and Tomatoes (adapted from How to Cook Everything)

Yield: 4 servings


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup coarsely ground bread crumbs

freshly ground black pepper

garlic powder

1 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-1 inch chunks

1 pound tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-1 inch chunks

1 large clove thinly sliced garlic

1 pound linguine, spaghetti, or other long pasta

1/4 cup thinly sliced basil, plus more for garnish

The Recipe

1. Prepare the bread crumbs, eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta to the pot and cook per package directions, until it is done, then drain.

3. While the water is boiling, place 1/4 cup olive oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the bread crumbs and cooked, stirring frequently, until toasted, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Once browned, remove from the skillet and place into a bowl, then set aside.

4. Add the other 1/4 cup olive oil to the skillet, then cook the eggplant, stirring from time to time and seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste, until it is browned and tender, about 10-15 minutes. When the eggplant is ready, add the the tomatoes and garlic and cook until softened, 8-10 minutes, the stir in the basil until just wilted.

5. Toss the cooked pasta with the eggplant mixture, then stir in the breadcrumbs. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Could consider adding some fresh mozzarella at this point too.


Indian Spiced Rice Pudding (Kheer)

After our visit to the Indian festival last weekend, we ended up at the neighboring mall, specifically at the bookstore since my son was fixated on getting a free balloon (which totally made his day!). While there, the Easy Indian Cookbook immediately caught my eye…I figured it must be fate having just enjoyed samosas and mango lassi! The ‘easy’ in the title was appealing too since the last time I tried my hand at Indian food I didn’t have much luck. But I figured I’d try again.

This rice pudding was delicious! The fragrant spices were just the same as those I’ve had while dining out at authentic Indian restaurants and wasn’t at all difficult to conjure up. It took a fair bit of attention, to keep stirring it regularly in order to avoid having the rice stick to the bottom of the pot and the milk from boiling over but it was worth it, for sure.

I put 5 shelled pistachio nuts and 5 shelled almonds in a small dish of very hot water and let them soak for 10 minutes, then drained them. In the meantime, I combined whole milk and basmati rice in a medium saucepan and cooked it over medium heat until the milk was mostly absorbed and the pudding was thick. This took about 20 minutes. I stirred the mixture regularly during this time. After the nuts had cooled a little, I finely chopped them. Once the pudding was fairly thick, I added the chopped nuts as well as the seeds from 4 green cardamom pods. Honestly I only discovered that cardamom pods have seeds that can easily be removed when reading through this cookbook but it wasn’t at all tough. I smashed the cardamom pod with the back of a spoon. Once it opened, I was easily able to remove the seeds. After a few more minutes of simmering, I added in 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and cooked until dissolved. I served the pudding at room temperature but it would be wonderful cold as well. I’m definitely excited to try more recipes from this book (they sound amazing!) and I’ll let you know how it goes when I do.

Indian Spiced Rice Pudding______________________________

Indian Spiced Rice Pudding (adapted with minimal changes from Easy Indian Cookbook)

Serves 4

5 pistachio nuts, shelled

5 almonds, shelled

2 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup basmati rice

seeds from 4 green cardamom pods

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

The Recipe

1. Place the pistachio nuts and almonds in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Remove from the water and once cool enough to handle, finely chop the nuts. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and rice and cook over medium heat until most of the milk is absorbed and the pudding starts thickening, about 12-20 minutes.

3. Stir in the chopped nuts and cardamom seeds and continue cooking for 3 more minutes. Then stir in the sugar and continue cooking another 5-6 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the rice is fully cooked and milk is mostly absorbed.

4. Serve at room temperature or cold.


Lo Mein

One of the fun benefits of this blog (so far) is that I am rediscovering my cookbook collection (that was the point anyway, right?). We received How to Cook Everything for a wedding gift and honestly I don’t think I really gave it the attention it deserves. I have lots of appetizing cookbooks but this one has a really interesting and unique selection of recipes for normal (that is, not fancy) food that I am excited to cook for my family. Tonight’s selection was lo mein. It was a much healthier alternative to the greasy stuff from our local Chinese takeout place and lends itself to lots of modifications depending on what is in your produce drawer and whether you’re serving a vegetarian or carnivore.

My husband made a batch of this tofu yesterday (I’m sure I will write about it in detail some other time…it’s amazing) so I decided to use it for this dish and go vegetarian for the night. Another nice thing about this meal is that a lot of the prep work can be done in advance making it a quick weeknight dinner. I cut the tofu into tiny cubes and soaked it in soy sauce. I sliced an onion into thin rings, then chopped up a pound of broccoli florets and sliced a red pepper into slender strips. I also minced 2 cloves of garlic and grated about a tablespoon of fresh ginger. It was key to get all the ingredients measured and ready to go up front so as not to slow down the cooking. The quantities are definitely not exact. I also ended up adding a cup of matchstick carrots I found in the fridge. Chopped up asparagus or mushrooms would work fine too. Or maybe some snow peas. The tofu didn’t have to be pre-cooked and certainly other proteins like beef or chicken would go splendidly as well; they just need to be sliced into very thin strips so they will cook fully and quickly when it is time. Once I had everything measured and set up…

set up for lo mein

…it was time to cook.

I boiled slightly salted water in a large saucepan and added 12 ounces of linguine. Whole wheat spaghetti or Chinese egg noodles would also work nicely here. Once it was al dente (it took 10 minutes) I drained it and tossed it with a tablespoon of peanut oil.

While the pasta was cooking I heated my wok on high then added another tablespoon of peanut oil. To that I cooked the onion until it was light brown, then I added the carrots, broccoli florets, and red pepper strips. I cooked them for about 6-8 minutes (go less if you prefer crisper vegetables). I stirred in the garlic and ginger and cooked for another minute or two, then removed all the veggies from the pan.

lo mein veggies

I added the final tablespoon of oil to the wok and carefully poured in the tofu (I tried to put the tofu in first, then the remaining soy sauce to cut down on splattering hot oil). I cooked it for a minute more. If using raw meat this might take a bit longer but again, this is why very thin strips are needed because it will cut down on cooking time. I then added in half a cup of vegetable stock, the noodles, and the vegetables and tossed it together for another minute.

The recipe was a keeper. I think it will be added to our regular repertoire given its versatility. For future I’d aim to get all the vegetables cut up over the weekend after doing our shopping so I can just immediately get to the cooking (and eating) part after a long work day. This lo mein was definitely a nutritious and tasty alternative to takeout!

lo mein


Lo Mein (adapted from How to Cook Everything)

Serves 4


12 ounces dry linguine (or whole wheat spaghetti)

3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided

8 ounces tofu, beef, chicken, etc., sliced into small, thin pieces

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 pound chopped broccoli florets

1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced into strips

1 cup matchstick carrots

(Any other veggies you choose)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 cup vegetable stock (or chicken stock or water)

The Recipe

1. Boil water in a large saucepan and add salt if desired. Once water comes to a boil add the linguine or other noodles and cook per package directions, about 10 minutes. Once the pasta is ready, drain it, toss with a tablespoon of oil and set aside.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok or large skillet on high. Once it is hot, add the onion slices and cook for 5 minutes, until lightly browned, stirring regularly. Then add the other vegetables and cook for up to 8 minutes, depending on how crispy you prefer your veggies. Add the garlic and ginger and stir in for about a minute. Remove vegetables from the wok.

3. Heat a third tablespoon of oil in the wok on high. Add the tofu (or chicken, etc.) to the wok and cook for about a minute (or if using raw meat, until fully cooked through). Then add any remaining soy sauce and the stock.

4. Add the pasta and vegetables back to the pan and combine, then serve.


Cashew Naan Stuffing

We went to an Indian festival this weekend and tasted some delicious food, which got me thinking about naan, and with Thanksgiving oh so close on the horizon, naan reminded me of the amazing Cashew Naan Stuffing I made last Turkey Day. Since I’m not hosting Thanksgiving this year, I decided to bring this yummy stuffing (ok, technically dressing since I’m not stuffing anything…except my face) to our dinner table a week before the big day.

I broke up 2 packages of store bought naan (which was 4 pieces, about 18 ounces total) into small pieces. Feel free to use restaurant naan too, we just don’t have an Indian place that close to us yet (one is coming soon I hear). It totaled about 8 cups. To that I added ground black pepper, some salt, and 4 sliced scallions.

In my wok I melted 2 sticks of margarine over medium heat (butter is fine too, I was just aiming for dairy-free here) and sautéed a chopped onion until lightly brown. To that I added a cup of cashews. The original recipe called for whole raw cashews–I’ll be honest I forgot to get them so I ended up picking out the cashews from a can of mixed nuts. I just reduced the salt elsewhere. I cooked the cashews until lightly browned then turned off the heat.

I added the naan mixture, plus half a cup of chopped fresh cilantro, half a cup of low-sodium chicken broth (can use vegetable broth if aiming for a vegetarian meal), and the juice of a lime to the wok and stirred it all together.

I poured the mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish and baked, covered with aluminum foil, at 350F for 20 minutes. Then I removed the foil and baked for another 20 minutes until the top was lightly browned.

It was just as good as I had remembered from last year. Bonus–it’s kid friendly too, just avoid the cashews if serving a toddler (choking hazard). Maybe some of you will add this unique and tasty twist on stuffing to your Thanksgiving menu. If you do, please let let me know!

Cashew Naan Stuffing


Cashew Naan Stuffing (adapted from Rachael Ray magazine)

Serves 6-8

4 rounds of naan (about 8 cups, 18+ ounces)

4 thinly sliced green onions

1/2 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper (or to taste)

2 sticks margarine or butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 cup whole raw cashews

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you prefer)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

The Recipe

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Break up the naan into small pieces and place into a bowl with the sliced green onions, salt, and pepper.

3. In a wok or nonstick skillet melt the margarine over medium heat then add the onion and cook until softened. Add the cashews and cook until lightly browned, stirring frequently.

4. Add the naan mixture, chicken broth, cilantro, and lime juice to the wok and stir until well combine. Transfer to a 9×13-inch baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Then remove foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes until lightly browned on top.


Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Today my husband and I ran our third annual Turkey Trot 5K (and our son slept through his second annual race). Afterwards I wanted something warm and (relatively) healthy for brunch and with some overripe bananas on the counter (plus an extra banana from the race), what better than to make some banana bread?! My son was a huge fan of the pumpkin muffins I made last weekend so I decided to go with muffins again, instead of traditional banana bread, plus muffins are faster to bake and get onto the table.

After preheating the oven to 375F and prepping my muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray, I combined the dry ingredients, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and a pinch of nutmeg in a large bowl. I made a well in the center and added the wet ingredients, melted butter, honey, milk, an egg, and peanut butter. To that I added a cup of mashed banana (it was about 2 and a half bananas but would depend on the banana size). After it was all combined until just moistened (still a bit lumpy), I stirred in half a cup of chocolate chips.

I divided the batter among the dozen muffin cups and baked for 20 minutes, until a knife stuck into the center came out clean. It was such a tasty combination of flavors for our post-race brunch. And my son woke up from his nap just in time to enjoy the muffins with us. Happy weekend everyone!

banana peanut butter chocolate chips muffins


Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins (adapted from How to Cook Everything)

Yield: 12 muffins

nonstick cooking spray (or paper liners for the muffin tin)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

pinch of ground nutmeg

3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1/4 cup honey

1 large egg

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup mashed overripe bananas (2-3 bananas)

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

The Recipe

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Coat muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg.

3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and to that, add the melted butter, honey, egg, and milk. Next add the bananas. Stir together with a fork or wooden spoon until fully combined and just moistened. It will be somewhat lumpy. Mix in the chocolate chips.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.


Tofu Pad Thai

Thai food ranks among my favorite genres of food and I crave it. Often. I love the spices and flavors and also that there are always lots of tofu options on the menu. Massaman curry and spicy tofu stir fries with basil are my typical choices when we order Thai. Mmmmm. We recently introduced our son to Tofu Pad Thai and he really loved it, which made us so happy! I have a homemade version that I’ve made several times in the past and decided to make it again, now that my son could join in the yum. It’s not exactly authentic (I’m pretty sure “real” Pad Thai does not contain ketchup) but it sure is good. This is not a complicated recipe but takes some time due to the multiple steps. I think it’s worth it every so often though; I can still get it made faster than I can pick up Thai take out!

I drained a standard 12 ounce package of extra firm tofu and cut it into inch-sized cubes. I placed the cubes on a paper towel on a plate and then covered them with another paper towel and another plate with a weight on top to get as much liquid out as possible to allow for crispy tofu. I let the tofu sit for 30 minutes. Afterwards, I tossed it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to help with the crispy outer coat when stir frying.

I cooked the rice noodles according to the package–in this case it entailed putting 6 ounces of noodles in a bowl and covering them with very hot tap water and letting them soak for 25 minutes. While they were soaking, I cooked the tofu. I heated a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat in the wok and sautéed the tofu for 7 minutes until it was light golden brown. I removed the tofu from the wok. I then scrambled 2 whole eggs and an egg white in the hot wok with a little more oil and removed them as well.

The sauce included ketchup, sugar, Sriracha, and soy sauce. The original recipe calls for fish sauce instead of soy sauce and I know that real Thai contains fish sauce but I find it unappetizing to cook with so I usually sub in something else. I then added the soaked and drained noodles to the wok and cooked them for 3 minutes. I added the sauce and mixed it with the noodles, then the scrambled eggs. I stirred in half a cup of chopped green onions and 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro, added the tofu back to the pan, and garnished with chopped peanuts. Thai craving fulfilled. For now…



Tofu Pad Thai (adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2010)

Serves 4

1 (12.3 ounce) package of extra-firm tofu, drained

2 tablespoons cornstarch

6 ounces flat uncooked rice noodles

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce (or fish sauce)

1 tablespoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1/2 cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons unsalted, dry roasted peanuts, chopped

lime wedges as garnish

The Recipe

1. Drain tofu and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place cubes on several layers of paper towels, layer with additional paper towels and put a plate on top of them, pushing down lightly occasionally. Let sit for 30 minutes, then toss the cubes with the cornstarch.

2. Prepare the noodles according to the package directions. Do not add salt or fat. Drain the noodles and set aside.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook until lightly golden brown on all sides, approximately 7 minutes. Remove from the pan.

4. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in the pan. Add the eggs/egg white and scramble for 30 seconds, stirring the whole time. Remove from the pan and set aside.

5. Combine ketchup, sugar, soy sauce, and Sriracha in a small bowl. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in the wok. Add the noodles and cook for 3 minutes then stir in the ketchup mixture. Add the eggs and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, then add the onions, cilantro, and tofu to the pan. Garnish with peanuts and a lime wedge.


Ground Beef Two Ways: Part 2-Fajita Meatballs

I needed to figure out something to do with the other pound of ground beef we bought this weekend. I happened to be sitting on the couch while meal planning and was flipping through a recent edition of Parents magazine where they had a spread on various meatball concoctions. The fajita meatballs sounded like something that would fly in my household so I proceeded. They were super fast to make! I had them prepped and ready to bake well before Ground Beef the first way, the Cottage Pie, was even out of the oven.

In my mini Cuisinart food processor, which by the way, is a really useful appliance and for small things saves a lot of time over dragging out the full sized Cuisanart, I chopped up half a green bell pepper and half a yellow bell pepper. Altogether I had about a cup of chopped pepper, the specific color doesn’t really matter, those were just what I had on hand. I also chopped up about a third of a red onion and then tortilla chips, to end up with half a cup of finely chopped tortilla chips. The tortilla chips are subbing in for the typical breadcrumbs in this meatball recipe. If you don’t have a food processor, you can chop the veggies by hand and put the tortilla chips in a ziplock bag and crush them with a rolling pin or something.

I combined the peppers, onion, and tortilla chips in a medium bowl and added a pound of ground beef, a teaspoon of chili powder, an egg, and a little bit of freshly ground pepper. I mixed them together by hand and formed them into a dozen meatballs.

I placed the meatballs, touching each other, in an 8×8 baking dish that I had coated with a tablespoon of olive oil and baked at 450F for 30 minutes, until they were cooked through, without any pink.


I think these meatballs have a lot of potential but as I made them, lacked a bit in flavor. Next time I would add more seasoning, possibly a fajita or taco spice blend. Also, I would have liked to have drizzled a little salsa on top to add some color and moisture. I plan to try them again sometime soon and will update when I do.


UPDATED December 6, 2013: Made these meatballs again tonight and with a little tweaking they were SO much better! I’ll edit the recipe below the reflect the new and improved Fajita Meatballs but in short, this time I used half a red and half a yellow bell pepper and blue corn chips (neither of those changes were really critical, just what I had on hand). The main change was that I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of fajita seasoning which made all the difference. You can use pre-mixed/store bought fajita seasoning or you can make your own. My husband made a bunch of fajita seasoning a while back so I just used that. Success! Easy, relatively quick (at least the hands-on part), and kid friendly meal.


Fajita Meatballs (adapted with minimal changes from Parents magazine, November 2013)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup finely chopped bell pepper (any combination of colors is fine)

1/3 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped tortilla chips

1 pound ground beef (I used 93% lean)

1 egg

1 teaspoon chili powder

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 teaspoons fajita seasoning

salsa and tortilla chips, for garnish

The Recipe

1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Coat an 8×8 baking pan with the olive oil.

2. Finely chop, by hand or food processor, bell pepper to equal 1 cup, and red onion to equal 1/3 cup. Then crush tortilla chips to equal 1/2 cup.

3. Add the pepper, onion, and tortilla chip crumbs to a medium bowl. Combine with the ground beef, egg, chili powder, ground black pepper, and fajita seasoning.

4. Form into 12 meatballs.

5. Place the meatballs in an 8×8 baking pan. They will be touching each other.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until they are full cooked through. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa.

Ground Beef Two Ways: Part 1-Cottage Pie

While flipping through Joy of Cooking, I found a recipe for shepherd’s pie that looked appealing (and kid friendly) so I bookmarked it and decided to make it using half of the two pounds of ground beef I had bought today. I later learned that shepherd’s pie is technically, by definition, made with lamb and not beef so what I really wanted to make was actually a cottage pie. It piqued my curiosity a little since the name shepherd’s pie makes sense but cottage pie not so much. A little googling got me one answer, that cottage pie was actually the original dish, and for cottage pie back in the 1700s, sliced potatoes were used on top instead of the mashed potatoes we are accustomed to today. The sliced potatoes resembled the shingles on the roof of a cottage. Whether that’s true or not, I really don’t know. But it sounds good. Nonetheless I used mashed potatoes for this meal, making it a hybrid I suppose.

I preheated the oven to 400F and coated a pie dish with nonstick spray.

For the mashed potatoes, I peeled and quartered four medium russet potatoes and brought them to a boil in a pot of water on medium heat. I cooked them for 15 minutes until fork tender then drained them, reserving half a cup of the cooking water. I mashed them with a tablespoon of margarine and the reserved water, and a little salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of garlic powder and beat them with a wooden spoon until they were smooth.

Then for the filling I finely chopped a medium yellow onion, a celery rib, and a peeled carrot and cooked them in a large skillet at medium-low heat in a tablespoon of vegetable oil until they were softened, about 10 minutes. I added in a pound of ground beef and raised the heat to medium, cooking until it was browned. I added in a tablespoon of flour to help thicken the filling, then chicken broth, dried thyme, dried rosemary, nutmeg, and some salt and freshly ground black pepper and I cooked it for another 5 minutes on low heat.


I transferred the filling to the pie dish then smoothed the mashed potatoes on top. I dotted the potatoes with a tablespoon of margarine.


After baking for 30 minutes it looked like this.


Delicious!! It was a satisfying fall meal for all of us. Next time I think I would add a cup of frozen peas in to the ground beef mixture for some color (and to see if I could get my kiddo to eat peas in that form) and season the meat more, maybe with some dill or a bit more pepper.

Another great thing about this meal is that during the 30 minute bake time I was able to prep part 2 of Ground Beef Two Ways for another night. Stay tuned…


Ground Beef Two Ways: Part 1-Cottage Pie (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 4 medium)
Freshly ground pepper
Garlic powder, to taste
2 tablespoons margarine (if going dairy free) or butter, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup chicken or beef broth
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
Pinch of ground or grated nutmeg
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)

The Recipe
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Coat a pie dish with nonstick cooking spray
2. Put the potatoes in a pot of water at medium heat and bring to a boil. Then cook for 15 minutes more, until fork tender.
3. Drain the potatoes, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water and transfer to a bowl. Mash with 1 tablespoon margarine, the reserved water, and salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Beat with a fork or spoon until smooth and somewhat fluffy. Set aside.
4. Coat a large skillet with the oil and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook on medium-low heat until softened, about 10 minutes.
5. Raise the heat to medium. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Stir in the flour then add the broth, thyme, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste (as well as any other seasonings you might prefer). Also add in the peas at this point, if using. Reduce heat to low. When it has thickened up a little, after about 5 minutes, transfer the meat mixture to the prepared pie dish.
6. Spoon the mashed potatoes atop the meat and smooth it out. Dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon margarine cut into small pieces.
7. Bake for 30 minutes. The top will be slightly golden.

Pumpkin Pancakes

I didn’t lie when I said there would be more pumpkin recipes on the way! In order to use up the leftover pumpkin from the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and make my family a yummy Sunday breakfast I modified our typical pancake recipe to create these pumpkin pancakes. I like this particular pancake recipe because it doesn’t require buttermilk, which I don’t always keep on hand, or any wait time in the refrigerator because even on weekends we still don’t have lots of spare time to wait on breakfast with a hungry toddler at my feet!

I use the Cuisinart Griddler to make pancakes. It has revolutionized pancakes in our household! Before that, no matter which recipe I tried or which pan I used, they all came out misshapen, unevenly cooked, and just flat out disappointing. This is one of those situations which the equipment matters as much as the recipe. While the non-stick griddle was heating I combined flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a bowl. To that I added milk, pumpkin puree, an egg, melted butter, and vanilla. The original recipe also called for sugar, which I omitted (accidentally) but I don’t think it really needed it. I’ll include it in the recipe below in case you have a sweet(er) tooth! I whisked it all together and then dropped approximately 1/4 cups of batter onto the griddle. Once bubbles formed, I flipped them over, then cooked until golden brown on both sides.

No syrup needed for these pancakes as they have so much flavor on their own though my husband did enjoy them with some apple butter. It was a lovely start to our Sunday!


Pumpkin Pancakes

Yield: 18 medium pancakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1 1/4 cups milk (I used coconut milk today but I’ve used skim and whole milk previously which have been just fine)

1 large egg

3 tablespoons melted butter

3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla

The Recipe

1. Heat a non-stick griddle (I set my electric griddle as high as it goes)

2. In a large bowl, place the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar (if using), cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and whisk together.

3. Add the wet ingredients, milk, egg, butter, pumpkin, and vanilla, to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened.

4. Drop 1/4 cups of batter a few inches apart on the griddle and cook until bubbles form on the surface. Then flip over and continue cooking until cooked through and golden brown. Serve right away.


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